Willie Walsh is not quite enjoying the retirement he had planned. When his departure was announced in January, he had just led British Airways owner IAG to a €2.3bn pre-tax profit for 2019, its share price was moving back towards all-time highs, and as one of the FTSE 100’s longest-serving chief executives, he was preparing to step down in March.
Fast-forward eight months and the world looks very different. After pushing back his leave date when the severity of Covid-19 became clear, Walsh will finally hand over the controls at IAG’s delayed annual meeting on Tuesday, at a time when the airline industry appears permanently changed by the pandemic and British Airways is flying only a fifth of its pre-crisis schedule. Instead of churning out profits, IAG made a €4.2bn loss in the first half of 2020, and Walsh himself will leave under the cloud of a potential shareholder